Chapter Nine

The photo saddened me, and I couldn’t help looking at it now and then.

Next morning I was up at the crack dawn as it was time to pull most of my lines. Thankfully it was a sunny day because Bob’s story had got me down a bit.

My first port of call was Lou and Lens farm, and as I rode along the race I saw Lou working away in the cowshed. He looked like an oversized heron hunting fish. He didn’t see me, so I just left him to it.

It was my last day on the farm, and I didn’t catch any possums that morning, which was good as it looked like the contractor was going to pass his block. He had obviously been very thorough so it would be well deserved.

An hour or so later I met Lou in the race; he was attempting to move his cows into a paddock of rank looking grass. They didn’t seem to keen on on the idea and were giving him a bit of a hard time. Hearing my quad he waved out, leaving the cows to make up their minds. I suspect they would have anyway.

“How’d you get on Bryan?”

“Didn’t catch any today, things are looking quite good”.

He nodded, looking pleased.

After all that Bob had told me, It was hard to look at Lou without feeling a bit sorry for him. Both brothers were in their late 70’s, neither had married, and according to Bob they hadn’t said a word to each other since 1948.

The amazing thing was they could still manage to run a farm together, as rough as it was.

We chewed the fat for a few minutes, and as I was about to leave, Lou invited me over to his place for a brew once I’d knocked off. I almost said no, but his forlorn look changed my mind. He gave me directions and then let me get on with the rest of my day.

As I checked my lines I kept thinking how stupid we humans are. Imagine not talking for over 60 years because of a pig. Still, wars have been fought over even more trivial matters, not a much of hope for the human race if you ask me.

By the time I finished for the day it had clouded over and rain wasn’t far away. Lou lived in some old shearers quarters a couple of farms down the road. They had seen better days and as I got off my quad prepared myself for squalor and the bad smell that comes with it.

I could hear a radio blaring away inside, tuned to a talkback channel. I had to bang on the door several times before Lou came to the door.

I got a bit of a shock; the place was spotless, dust and dirt obviously had a very short life expectancy at Lou’s place. As well as being incredibly clean, it was uncluttered. At the end of the room was Lou’s bed, you’d think he was in the army it was so well made. Next to it was an old set of rimu drawers, adorned with an old pearl handled pocket knife, a black comb, and radio.

The kitchen table was made of pink Formica and was bare except for a bottle of tomato sauce and a salt and pepper shaker. Apart from the kitchen sink and a wardrobe, that was pretty much it.

Offering me a seat, Lou put the jug on, and we talked about the weather while it boiled.

I noticed the picture as he poured the tea, it was on a small shelf above the kitchen sink. Contained in a weathered-looking wooden frame, it was a black and white photo of two small boys standing outside the old homestead on Len and Lou’s farm. They held an eel each and looked very chuffed with themselves. It was obvious who it was.

The photo saddened me, and I couldn’t help looking at it now and then.

Our conversation was awkward. Lou was a man of few words, and I have never been that flash at conversation. After about half an hour I made to leave, but it was obvious that Lou wanted me to stay a bit longer. We struggled along with the conversation for a bit, and somewhere along the line, Lou noticed me looking at the photo. He gave it a look of such longing that it made me want to say something. But I was either too wise or too cowardly to say anything, probably the later.

When I left that afternoon, it was with a sense of emptiness, and I decided to make a phone call to someone I hadn’t spoken to for a long, long time. I just hoped he were home.

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